Quotas don't work, support does

The pernicious idea that quotas might be the solution for disability employment continues (‘How China trumps Australia when it comes to supporting disabled workers’ Canberra Times 4/1/17). Comparisons with China are ridiculous. A much more useful and realistic comparison is between where we are now and where we could be.

But more to the point, my experience as the CEO of a large disability employment service is that quotas and subsidies don’t work.

A small number of employers see quotas as an opportunity to contribute toward an inclusive society while at the same time broadening the talent pool they call upon for staff. Many more do not, believing that employing a person with disability is too hard. Others employers might seek ‘token’ workers.

However, by far the worst effect of quotas and subsidies is the creation of the belief that people with disability are only employable when offered at a ‘sale price’.

As one of my more discerning partner employers once said to me, ‘Mate, I don’t care how much you pay me. If this bloke can’t do the job, he’s not worth it.’ Put simply, employers will include people with disability on their teams when they believe that this is in their interests for positive reasons: (‘I will gain a valuable team member’).

I have spent the best part of 30 years leading our job-seekers’ campaigns with their strengths and interests, placing them into a job that matches these, then providing genuine post-placement support for as long as the worker requires it. This works. Since 1990, we have placed over 15,000 workers with a disability into award-wage jobs.

- Martin Wren